WHILE her workmates used their mid-deployment leave to go sightseeing in Europe, Navy’s Able Seaman (AB) Zoraya Tibos spent two weeks helping people in need in Cambodia.
The Blaxland-bred, maritime logistics-personnel sailor is currently deployed on Operation Accordion at Australia’s main operating base in the Middle East.
She said she came up with the plan to visit Cambodia after road-tripping across America last year.
This year, she decided, she was going to do something that would help people.
“I knew I would go to help kids, or just sit around and play with them to give them something different to focus on, but I had no idea how rife the human suffering is there,” AB Tibos said.
“I don’t think I fully absorbed it until I got back, but it has definitely settled in now.
“It was a pretty heavy experience.”
AB Tibos said she has some family friends who have lived in Cambodia for a few years and who work with orphanages and schools, and help Cambodians gain employment after completing their education.
“I stayed with them so I could get a local feel of Cambodia,” she said.
Without thinking about it, I gave their coach the money they needed. When he translated it to them, the kids were so excited, some were even crying.
“I visited their business, and they took me to a few orphanages and to the slums.
“The slums are just streets and streets of rubbish, where the residents live in their own filth because they have no money.”
During her visit AB Tibos donated some items which were supplied by deployed Joint Task Force 633 personnel.
It was then that she became aware some of the children were trying to raise funds to buy new soccer uniforms for their team.
“The kids had managed to pay off USD $10, but needed $55 more to get the uniforms,” she said.
“Without thinking about it, I gave their coach the money they needed.
“When he translated it to them, the kids were so excited, some were even crying.
“To them, that kind of money is like us getting our hands on a few thousand dollars.”
During her trip she visited the businesses which employ women and young girls who have been taken out of the sex trade and trafficking industry.
Often after they are rescued out of the trafficking trade the young women have no way of earning money for themselves or their families, however there are a number of Cambodian charities which look after the women during their recovery.
AB Tibos said the organisations house and feed them, train them in various trades, and pay for any medical or psychological treatment they need.
On the walls of some of the charity buildings are the stories of women who have been rescued from trafficking.
“I think the youngest was only six years old when she was taken from her family.
“The only women who work at these places are the ones who have been taken out of the sex-trade. They’re all lovely people and they really value their jobs because it has got them away from a terrible life.”
On return to her deployment, AB Tibos said the trip changed her outlook on the world.
“A little bit definitely goes a long way,” she said.
There are about 500 ADF personnel deployed on Operation Accordion.